92-year-old School of Music donor has given more than $200,000 to the program

Veha Chamichian’s house was built for music and Central Michigan University’s musical program was built with her love.

Chamichian, 92, recently donated “well over $200,000” to Central Michigan University’s school of music, said Alison Miller, development director of the College of Communication and Fine Arts.

“I love the school of music, because we need musicians,” said Chamichian, a Mount Pleasant resident. “Everyone wants to donate and recognize the sports teams, but my love is for the music department.”

The Veha Chamichian Endowment for Orchestral Studies enables students to acquire orchestra equipment and instruments, provides travel opportunities, scholarships, guest musicians and covers musical purchases.

The endowment is the first of its established specifically for the orchestra program.

She also donated enough to build Chamichian Hall for the orchestra.

“The sound of that hall is better than the other ones, it feels like you can reach out and touch the musicians,” Chamichian said.

Chamichian developed her love of orchestral music after meeting her husband, Soren, who was a violinist in the Midland Symphony Orchestra.

Their life together was built around music. Her husband’s passion for music was so strong they built their house with no basement, solely for acoustic considerations.

“We set up this fund to honor Veha for all of her support of our music and arts department, as well as in memory of her husband,” said Randi L’Hommedieu, chairman of the School of Music. “Veha is still one of the most frequent and loyal members of the audience.”

They regularly traveled to orchestra concerts, from Detroit to Chicago to New York and had musicians over weekly for dinner parties and improvisational sessions.

“The music buildings weren’t there until after he passed, so it was my responsibility to carry on our tradition,” Chamichian said.

Chamichian said she would like to see a larger orchestra, a stronger string section, and more interest from students.

She said a good audience is necessary to encourage budding musicians.

Miller said Chamichian has sponsored the music department more than anyone.

“Veha appreciates music more than anyone else,” Miller said. “It’s because her love of music that represents why music is alive.”

Chamichian remained humble about the extent of her donations.

“I’m honored, naturally, but I don’t do it to get recognition,” she said. “I listen to the CMU orchestra from morning until bedtime.”